Very few things stick out in your mind as clearly as does your wedding day. On June 3, 1989, Martha and I were married, and when we arrived at the reception someone predictably opened the first dance with the Beatles tune "Martha My Dear." She was beautiful and radiant that day as we celebrated our first few hours as husband and wife.
Twenty-three years later in a hospital room, sick and drawn, that radiant woman died at age 61. Martha had a rough eight years due to a life-threatening illness in 2004. After nearly a month in the hospital, she emerged from a coma. Within days, she was on a walker and seemed destined for a full recovery. But as the months passed, her condition worsened, and by 2007, she steadily entered the world of an invalid.
Now, mind you, this had been an active person - indeed she found it hard to keep still. Whether cleaning the house, planting a garden or making party mix at holiday time, Martha was on the go. As well, she was fiercely independent, often with a truculent tongue accompanied by a razor sharp mind. Indeed, as a trained nurse, she cared for me twice with broken bones. As a caregiver, she was persistent and firm. Needless to say, I recovered.
But she sometimes did not give a care for her own health. In 2004, her slight body - she was but 110 pounds - crashed and mortality seemed around the bend. Thanks to a heroic effort by Davis Memorial hospital staff, she survived. Unlike me, she did not enjoy as full of a recovery.
But she did not succumb easily. Give Martha credit, she could not and would not be patronized. Even with every problem, she could by argumentative and not the least whit passive. Despite being confined first to a wheelchair and then a sofa, she never lost her spirit or ability to fight. Fashioning a world with an impressive ingeniousness, Martha's mind remained active. Her knowledge of cinema became impressive, and she become resourceful dealing with every task. Despite physical obstacles, she made do and improvised. This was her most impressive achievement in eight very difficult years.
But this world was hard to maintain as she slowly deteriorated. She only occasionally refereed to her lack of ambulatory skill. However, it as clear how much she hated being confined to a limited world. As months past, she complained less - a disturbing occurrence, for her sense of struggle kept her alive and gave her purpose even if only in her head. Sometimes physicians dealing with everything from neurology to knees told her the brutal truth; and every time they did, she declined just a little more. Hope is not a good thing to mess with, however, rationally misplaced. To tell an already vulnerable person "the facts of life" is to often destroy what keeps them going.
But physicality is sometimes fate and hard to escape, and this was one Martha could not avoid. We were proud that she avoided the emergency room, visiting it only one time since 2007. With her giving orders, I became an amateur caregiver. Her methods were eccentric at times - but they worked. But as she lost steadily her battles, she discovered that she could do even less in an already limited world.
As she lay dying, waiting - or at least I like to think - for our wedding anniversary to expire, she looked up and I still saw radiance and fire. For a brief second, I remembered that first dance and the tune that accompanied it. Indeed, I will forever remember you "Martha My Dear."